First we were frantically visiting people we hadn’t seen yet, doing last-minute shopping, and not sleeping in general.

Then we were driving down the long I-5 corridor from Oregon to Southern California.

Then we were flying to New York, to Casablanca, to Nouakchott.

Then the room where the computer is was locked and the key could not be found. It never was. I had to hire someone to break in and install a new lock.

Then the phone was not working. This time I got to spend an entire morning going from office to office at Mauritel. The bill was 4 times higher than I was expecting! AUGH!

Then the phone was working but not the internet. (That’s actually the current situation, but by the time you read this, of course all will have been solved)

So I realize it’s been a while since I last posted.

It’s Thursday evening, September 14, in Nouakchott. It’s the hot season, which is to say that it’s not that hot (in the 90s) but terribly, horribly, humid. The air is heavy and wet; you struggle through it rather than walk. Anytime you are out of reach of a fan, which is to say most of the time unless you are sitting down, you begin to literally drip. If you are me, you will start a heat-rash within about half an hour of this.

The kids and I came back in time for school, leaving Donn to spend some extra time with his father, who is doing remarkably well considering he was diagnosed with 2 forms of fatal cancer last year.  Our journey was a pain, but we had no trouble. Nothing got confiscated. We’d remembered to pack the mini-Leathermans and sunscreen in the cases. Thinking of our long layover in Casablanca, I smeared a tiny bit of toothpaste on our toothbrushes and put them in a Ziploc in my carry-on. At least we’d get one brush in the 45 hours it took us to get from San Diego to Nouakchott. I also tucked our suits into a pocket of Elliot’s backpack, hoping we’d get a hotel with a pool. I realized that I was the only one who cared that I couldn’t bring my make-up in my carry-on; no one else was worried at how haggard I look au naturel.

We left the in-laws at 4 a.m. for the 1 ½ hour drive to the airport. The kids slept all the way in but I didn’t. I stared out at the hills and moon and shreds of fog and worried a bit. San Diego airport was fine. We got our 8 bags checked, said good-bye to Donn and his dad, took off our shoes for the stern-faced security officers.

American Airlines charged us $2 EACH for those crummy little chemical-laden, over-processed Otis Whatshisface muffins; or we could pay $5 for a minute square of turkey sandwich. I choked paying for 3 muffins but I had to—by this time, the kids were starving. I got by with my free juice and airline coffee. I was unimpressed with American Airlines—this summer I flew Royal Air Maroc, Delta, UniTED, and American. Everyone else served us plenty of food, gave us free newspapers and games for the kids, and was generally a lot more helpful.

JFK sure was a lot of fun, with 3 kids and 8 bags. I got 2 carts and Elliot and Abel, with great enthusiasm, dragged our bags off the carousel. We loaded up the bags, added on 3 very overstuffed backpacks, and set off on the maze that is The Way to Terminal One. We  went up elevators and down elevators, we took the Skytrain, we stood in long lines to take our shoes off once more. Often the elevators were so small that I’d send the 3 kids and one cart on ahead, with instructions which floor to get off on and to WAIT FOR ME RIGHT THERE JUST OUTSIDE THE ELEVATOR. We made it; our stuff got checked in again, we got to the terminal with only 90 minutes to spare! Sigh… Did you know that they charge $4.50 for a tiny bag of peanuts in JFK? This time, I made them be hungry, even though we hadn’t had lunch. Royal Air Maroc takes its cue from the French, and always serves you several courses—a salad, smoked salmon with lemon, 2 rolls and butter, cheese, dessert and the main dish. It’s airline food, but not bad for such, and the coffee is stronger than American airline coffee.

None of us really slept much. Ilsa and I watched “Akeelah and the Bee” on one overhead monitor—the boys couldn’t really see it from where they were, and the one close to them was broken. I lift all electronic limitations for long travel, so they took advantage and played Game Boy for hours and hours.

It was 6:30 a.m. local time when we arrived in Casa and it took us till 10 to get to the hotel. We had a 17 ½-hour layover, so Royal Air Maroc got us a hotel in the city. The hotel was probably gorgeous when it was built in the 70s, but hadn’t had a lot done to it since. It’s right on the waterfront, right across from a McDonald’s, but we were too tired for these enticements. We went to our room, cranked the AC, and slept for 7 hours. We woke up, went for a swim, went to dinner, and then packed up and waited for the bus to take us back out to the airport.

We left at midnight. We were supposed to land at 2:30 a.m. The ‘fasten seat-belt’ sign was on, the crew had prepared for landing, but we just kept not landing. 5 minutes passed, then 10, then the pilot announced that due to a thunderstorm we were being diverted up to Nouadibhou, a city to the north. We sat on the runway there for 3 hours. Abel played GameBoy; Elliot and I read. None of us slept, although most people did. We got into NKC at 6:30 a.m., to a relatively cool, wet morning and an airport crawling with cockroaches, which made it difficult to rest your bags on the floor while waiting in the long line at customs. Thankfully, our colleague was there to meet us. We came home to a house strangely empty and echo-y after American homes (it’s the tile floors). It stunk of dust. We crawled into the dusty sheets and slept.

Now, 5 days later, I’m beginning (only just) to lose that dazed feeling.

UPDATE: Hooray! I’ve got internet again, dead-slow after that American wi-fi, but I’m just thankful. I’m looking forward to catching up on everyone else’s blogs, too—I got woefully behind this summer.

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